A couple dozen people gathered in a south side parking lot on Monday afternoon to dedicate a giant outdoor chalkboard to the thoughts and dreams of Black Madison.

The late fall chill pushed past scarves and gloves, but hope seemed to warm the small crowd as they inaugurated the Black Thought Wall, an interactive public art installation at the north edge of Villager Mall on South Park Street.

“With this project, we invite Black people to reflect and share publicly our perspectives on who we are, what we value and our visions for the whole community and humanity,” YWCA Madison CEO Vanessa McDowell, one of the project’s organizers, told the group. “We invite everyone to honor those perspectives as wisdom for our collective healing and the building of a just society.”

Black attendees picked up chalk and stepped up to the wall to write or draw in response to the questions written across the top: “What do you love about yourself? What does your healing look like? Imagine a world where all Black people are without any limitation. Tell us about it.”

The wall is the brainchild of Alicia Walters of Oakland, California, who installed the first such space in July 2019 at Oakland Museum’s Oak Street Plaza with help from the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, a national racial and economic justice organization.

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